House panel OKs wider use of drug to limit heroin deaths

Staff, wire reportsFebruary 27, 2013 

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Heroin is typically cooked in a spoon over an open flame, such as a candle, before being injected.

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The drug naloxone is used in ambulances and emergency rooms to reverse an overdose from opioids such as heroin. Under a bill approved by a House committee Tuesday, third parties could administer it as well without fear of liability.

House Bill 79, sponsored by Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville, would allow doctors to prescribe the drug to someone they believe is able to administer it, such as a family member of a heroin addict. Neither the doctor nor the person administering the drug would be subject to any disciplinary action under Kentucky law.

Daniel Wermeling, a University of Kentucky pharmacy professor who testified to the House Health and Welfare Committee, said some areas where people had more access to naloxone had seen a 50 percent reduction in overdose deaths.

The issue of wider access to naloxone is a national one; the FDA held hearings last year on making it available without a prescription. Naloxone blocks receptors for opioid drugs such as pain killers and heroin, allowing it to reverse the effects of an overdose.

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